Inner shell excitation spectroscopy is a local probe of the unoccupied electronic structure in the immediate vicinity of the core excited atom. As such, one might expect the inner shell spectrum of a given unit (a molecular fragment or a repeat unit of a solid) to be largely independent of where that unit is located. This is often an implicit assumption in spectral analysis and analytical applications. However, there are situations where inner shell excitation spectra exhibit significant sensitivity to their local environment. Here I categorize the ways in which inner shell spectra are affected by their local environment, and give examples from a career dedicated to developing a better understanding of inner shell excitation spectroscopy, its experimental techniques, and applications.